When it comes to shopping, the beginning of November is the calm before the storm. As the month’s final week arrives—marked by infamous Black Friday sales—holiday shopping will be in full swing. This can be a stressful time for some, what with budgeting, long lines and sold-out merchandise. However, with proper planning, holiday shopping won’t rear its ugly head in the final days of December. Below are six tips to ease the stress of holiday shopping and make this season of giving the best one yet.
1. Follow (Santa’s) Suit
The man in red has to gather gifts for kids worldwide and to keep everything in order, he makes a list—and checks it twice. Before heading to the mall, write a list of everyone that you have to buy gifts for. Next to each name, pencil in a budget within which your gift should fall.
There’s one more thing to add to the list before you start shopping: what you’re going to give each person. It’s much less stressful to walk into a store with the perfect gift in mind than it is to browse and find something.
2. Follow Sales and Coupons
This is another area where a list will come in handy. Christmas shopping comes with lucrative sales at stores both traditional and online. If you know what you’re looking for, you can seek out deals and coupons for these specific items. A cheaper price will take even more pressure off at this time of year.
3. Buy into Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)
Black Friday is big for a reason—most of the sales are really, truly good. Just be sure to do your research beforehand as a handful of the “deep discounts” advertised are just as low as regular sale prices. Cyber Monday is the digital age’s response to Black Friday. On the day of, online retailers offer hourly discounts and special sales. Around the holidays, many offer fast and free shipping, too. Mark your calendar; it takes place the Monday following Black Friday.
4. When in Doubt, Go Practical
There is always going to be one impossible-to-buy-for friend or family member on your list. One tip for finding the right gift for these types of people is to opt for gifts they can actually use. While a busy mom might appreciate a leather-bound planner to hash out appointments and lessons and games, a handy husband could truly use a tool kit, sander, or electronic level.
5. Don’t Shop Solo
When you don’t trust your own shopping instincts, bring along someone who knows his or her stuff. A friend familiar with your budget can be an incredibly valuable resource come holiday time. He or she can help you stay within your means and check you when you attempt to step outside. A friend can also provide you with gift ideas—fresh perspective might even result in a better gift than you had imagined.
6. Start Early
By the day after Thanksgiving, holiday shopping is in full swing. Starting early—even at the beginning of November—can prevent a rush. And, a tip for years to come: keep an eye out for special gifts year-round and save them until December. A heartfelt present that you’ve had all along? There might not be anything better than that.
Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for a tech company and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her articles have been published by Her Fitness Hut, Examiner.com, and Ask Miss A.